Hampshire UK: The Computer Learning Centre Project

Date published: 24 February 2012
Flagship initiative: European Year 2012 of Active Ageing & Solidarity between Generations
Address: Hampshire Learning, Children's Services, Hampshire County Council,
The Castle, Winchester, Hampshire, SO23 8UG
Contact person: Sue Muldowney - Hampshire Learning
Yvette Christian - Age Concern Hampshire
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Why have you selected this example?

Hampshire County Council's adult and community learning service, Hampshire Learning, aims to enrich lives through an exciting mix of learning opportunities which develop skills and promote well-being by keeping people active, stimulated and involved. Hampshire Learning works in partnership with a wide range of learning providers across Hampshire including other council departments/services, schools, libraries, children‟s centres and voluntary and community organisations.

During the 2010/11 academic year, through its partners, Hampshire Learning delivered over 3000 courses to over 16,000 learners at 300+ locations across the County. Of these learners over 41.5% were 50 years and over attending courses across the spectrum of subjects offered. 126 of these courses were specifically planned for older learners: these were attended by 1214 learners of 60 years and over, which equates to 3.75% of the adult learning provision in that year. Types of courses attended ranged from Keep-fit for the Young at Heart to Information and Communications Technology (ICT) for Older Learners.

This case study focuses on older learners. The Computer Learning Centre project is delivered through partnership working with a voluntary and community organisation, Age

Concern Hampshire. Age Concern Hampshire is an independent charity established over 25 years ago to provide support and services to older people in Hampshire. It is primarily an agent for change through awareness raising and campaigning, empowerment and support. The organisation has 181 paid employees and 452 people who regularly engage as volunteers. As an Age Positive Champion, and leading by example, Age Concern Hampshire‟s oldest paid employee is 82 years of age and its youngest 20; its oldest volunteer is 95 years of age and its youngest 22, and its oldest day centre member is 105 years of age.

The Computer Learning Centres project evolved at a time when Age Concern Hampshire recognised, through its work with its client group, that older people were becoming disadvantaged through their lack of skills and confidence to take on the challenges of new technology. Many older people did not have access to computers or a desire to attend ICT classes at local colleges and ICT was often seen as 'something for their children or grandchildren'. By not engaging in this arena, older people were not able to access information or services that could enhance their lives eg online shopping, consumer advice, email and digital photography. Age Concern Hampshire also had a legacy of recruiting and using volunteers, particularly older people, to support services within their organisation and it was from this approach that the idea of offering volunteer led ICT drop sessions to older people in the community was born. Over the last 11 years the Computer Learning Centres project has proved to be a very successful project providing drop in, one-to-one introductions to Information and Communications Technology for the 4413 people aged over 50.

In 2010/2011 4892 hours of learning was delivered to over 600 older learners. Adult learner numbers rose by 3.5% in 2010 proving demand for this type of provision is still very much in demand, and in 2011/12 the project continues to develop and expand.

Age Concern Hampshire facilitates eleven computer learning centres across the County. Most sessions take place in community venues eg libraries, arts centres, community centres, and occasionally in day centre facilities. All venues provide a relaxed learning environment with some offering one session a week and others offering multiple sessions and three new centres are scheduled to open later this year. Each centre provides an opportunity for local communities to enhance the computer skills of older people and at the same time also encourages older people to be independent and avoid social exclusion.

A paid co-ordinator is responsible for co-ordination of the whole project, which is staffed almost entirely by volunteers most of whom who have some expertise in ICT. Each session is staffed by a volunteer co-ordinator, a volunteer receptionist and a team of volunteer tutors/coaches who work with learners on a one-to-one basis.

Age Concern Hampshire affirms that volunteering can be a powerful tool to help people change their lives for the better. People can develop a sense of self worth, optimism and ambition; acquire totally new skills or diversify skills which employers see as extremely valuable; meet new people and engage more in local society leading to a sense of reward and achievement. Age Concern Hampshire recognises the key role of the volunteers in their Computer Learning Centre provision. their provision would not run as effectively without their volunteers. The organisation always strives to ensure their

volunteers feel valued and so offer training and support in all areas and encourage a good team atmosphere amongst the volunteers. In 2010 Computer Centre Age Concern Hampshire volunteers provided 14,471 hours of tuition & support. Volunteers feedback is welcomed and comments have included: “Having retired several years ago, it provides social contact and a challenge which I need”, “My self confidence has improved” and “I welcome the opportunity to pass on my skills and knowledge to others”.

The curriculum provides for learners who have never switched on a computer before and includes basic skills such as an introduction to word processing, spreadsheets, databases, email and the internet. Following an initial assessment, learners work at their own pace with a volunteer tutor who takes them through the appropriate aspects of the curriculum. Once learners have mastered the basics of operating the computer, additional sessions are tailored to meet the individual‟s needs. Gaining digital skills enables older learners to access information about health and well-being; finance; consumer advices and much more. Learners have shown interest in digital photography, Skype, online shopping and social networking – often to keep in contact with children and grandchildren. Learners express their appreciation of the session and feedback includes comments such as: “I'm learning new skills and gaining confidence”, “It keeps me mentally active”.

Hampshire Learning funds this project through the government's Skills Funding Agency Adult Safeguarding Learning (ASL) allocation, reviewing the allocation on an annual basis through a formal funding application process. This in turn leads to a signed funding agreement with Age Concern Hampshire. ASL funding is used to support 'leisure learning' which is offered for personal or skills development, cultural enrichment, intellectual or creative stimulation and for enjoyment. This learning seeks to meet local interests and the needs of the community. Leisure programmes are targeted at adults in Hampshire with particular focus on older people; people in rural communities; adults who have benefitted least from the education system; those who are in most financial need or may be 'disadvantaged' for a variety of reasons. The Computer Project addresses these key areas.

Hampshire Learning is represented on the County Council‟s Joint Older People's Well-Being Steering Group. This group facilitates closer working between voluntary and community organisations and the relevant public and statutory organisations in Hampshire.

The County Council's Older People's Well-Being Team has published the 'Ageing Well in Hampshire' Older People's Well-Being Strategy 2011-2014 which established priorities identified by older people through a wide-ranging consultation exercise. An Action Plan has been developed to address the 16 priorities identified. 'Help to use Computers' was ranked at 12 out of the 16 priorities.

Two areas of the action plan which Hampshire Learning will endeavour to support are

- to establish a computer skills network to promote and increase community based ICT classes for older people

- to extend the range and co-ordination of intergenerational projects across the County.

How much does this flagship initiative impact upon adult learning in your region

The initiative impacts upon adult learning from time to time due to its effect as a strong example of partnership working. The project is an example of collaboration / good working relationship between local authority departments and a voluntary and community organisation, by providing many hours of tuition and support to older learners across the County. The Computer Learning Centre Project addresses aspects of flagship initiatives: Platform against Poverty; European Year 2012 of Active Ageing & Solidarity between Generations; and the Digital Agenda for Europe. Positive outcomes from the project include learners remaining independent, engaging in more social interaction, avoiding isolation, and improving health and wellbeing.

What bearing do the flagship’s targets have on adult learning provision in your region?

The project is a good example of how Hampshire Learning and its partners can achieve a set of varying objectives through adult and community learning. The Computer Learning Centres Project addresses a range of needs identified in the flagship targets, as well as demonstrating that it increase learners‟ basic knowledge of information communication technology.

Achievement of the flagship targets will actively contribute to the overall adult and community programme within Hampshire. The flagship targets will assist in supporting and encouraging older learners by: Preventing social exclusion: older learners will continue to play an active role in society using newly acquired ICT skills to contribute to local projects or groups Having access to information: older learners will be able to access information about services and/or support which can offer choice Promoting independence: older learners will be supported to maintain levels of independence and lead fulfilling lives for as long as possible Promoting active ageing: through volunteering, older people will continue to play an active role in society through sharing their experiences and remaining in the workforce

How can your experience better inform EU policy makers about adult learning through this initiative?

Hampshire Learning is committed to offering provision that reflects local need and demand. Our experience can better inform EU policy makers about adult learning through understanding the importance of some of the features of the project. These include: Adopting a bottom-up approach by taking into account the views of older people and learners and developing an approach that meets their needs Providing opportunities to focus learning on areas of individual interest eg communicating with grandchildren; taking and storing photographs; advice

on buying a new computer and how to use it; using mobile phone/iPad Evolving over time through listening to feedback from learners and being willing to change and adapt the approaches to learning Engaging older people and previous learners as volunteers in support activities eg centre receptionists; learning support assistants Recognising that volunteers gain from their experience as well as learners, in particular the role that volunteering can play in active ageing as well as supporting unemployed people of all ages to get back to work

How can the flagship initiative enhance the delivery of adult learning in your region?

The flagship initiative can enhance the delivery of adult learning in our region by continuing to promote the successful and positive features of this project eg responding to learner need, partnership collaboration between County Council departments and external agencies, good management and strategic working in areas of need eg rural areas, sheltered accommodation.

The Computer Learning Centres Project has developed through the vision and commitment of a local charity with the support of Hampshire Learning, which was prepared to support an initiative that did not fit the more traditional adult learning class model. As a result it supports the needs of older learners throughout the county.

Next steps:

The project is expanding to deliver more learning opportunities in sheltered accommodation complexes and other new venues and, with support from the County Council's Rural Strategy Team, ensuring that there is provision in Hampshire‟s rural areas.

The Project has also recognised how the model can support unemployed people of all ages and now offers ICT training to unemployed people under 55 years of age as well as recognising that providing volunteering opportunities will provide motivation and an opportunity to maintain skills and develop new areas of expertise for people seeking employment.